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Make your library’s social media posts better in 5 easy steps

For the past couple of months, I’ve had the pleasure of working with a small, selective cohort of library staff from public libraries in Tennessee. Each week, we look at important concepts in social media and content marketing, and then review their assignments, which are based on the previous week’s concepts. It’s been a great experience, and my hope is that the attendees learned enough to shift their mindsets:  from hollering into the digital void,  to saying things people actually want to hear.

In that vein, I’d like to share the following things that will help you make that same shift.

  1. Write for the payoff. Every person who happens upon your post is thinking, consciously or not, “What’s in it for me?” We’re human–that means that we are inherently self-interested. Don’t tell people to come to your program. Tell them right up front what they’ll get from coming to the program. Think about storytimes, and which of these two concepts is better:  “We’ll entertain your kid for you!” versus “Come do this thing and here’s a date and time.”  Look at your headline and the rest of the content of your post. If it doesn’t EXPLICITLY tell people what they’ll get out of whatever-it-is, ditch it. Start over, because nobody will care.
  2. Keep it short. REALLY short. Steven Krug’s Third Law of Web Usability reads: “Get rid of half the words on each page, then get rid of half of what’s left.” (Yes, this applies to social media as well, because, c’mon, you know in your gut nobody is reading much text, right?) In other words, your finished post should be only 25% of what you started with, to be actually effective.  Learn more from this infographic from Buffer.
  3. Know to whom you’re actually talking. It’s easy to say “Know your audience!” But…do you, really? I’d bet you probably don’t. Don’t tell me your post is geared towards adults. That’s not an audience, when it comes to social media.  That’s a generic demographic. Which adults? What are their pain points? What are their needs, their interests? No message is for everyone…so why waste your valuable time trying to engage literally…everyone?  You should know who your post targets before it’s written. Is it for parents who have kids doing remote learning? Are they short on space, bandwidth, patience? This ties back to #1:  you can’t adequately target the payoff if you don’t know specifically who will benefit and how.
  4. Write in the active voice. Which is better:  “Your research can benefit from the assistance of a librarian,” versus “Our librarians will help you get your research done”? Using the passive voice (the former example) weakens your message. Being assertive is not the same as being aggressive. Write like you mean it.
  5. Frontload your headlines.  Take these two headlines:

“The library has a great new service coming your way in 2021”


You’ll be able to check out books yourself at our new self-check machines beginning in 2021″

           Frontloading is a journalism technique that has long been in use in social media as well. Give people the meat, so they’ll come back for the potatoes–the details.  Don’t try to hide the payoff with mysterious headlines, because it will only annoy your readers.

Got any more tips? Share them in the comments!

There are 2 comments

  1. Thanks for these tips. Any thoughts on how to measure the effectiveness of posts? How do we go from thinks like “Facebook says this post has a reach of 350” to “Facebook (or some other campaign) caused usage of ___ to rise ___%”

    1. Hi Daniel–you might find this post helpful: https://www.meanlaura.com/how-to-set-better-library-social-media-goals/ If it makes you feel better, though, this is something that even big nonprofits struggle with: connecting social metrics to real ROI. In your specific case, the most likely way to get an answer to that question is to survey participants/user directly about how they heard about the service/collection. There’s no automated way to do this for libraries.

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